By Amy Kaufman
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.
4:06 PM CST, March 3, 2013
Warner Bros.' New Line division may be let down over the underwhelming opening of its big-budget "Jack the Giant Slayer," but the company has something to celebrate: "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" crossed the $1-billion milestone Sunday.
The first in Peter Jackson's 3-D film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's 1937 kids novel is the 15th film to gross more than $1 billion worldwide at the box office. The filmmaker's "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" is also a member of the club, as the 2003 release ended up with a staggering worldwide tally of $1.1 billion.
When "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" debuted in the U.S. and Canada in December, its $84.6-million launch was actually far below what industry polling had suggested the film would start off with. However, the movie proved it had legs and ended up grossing $301.4 million domestically.
But it was the movie's phenomenal overseas performance that turned the $250-million production into a hit. To date, the movie about a hobbit trying to save a group of dwarves from a dragon has sold $700 million in tickets internationally -- roughly 70% of its overall gross. Its recent performance in China helped to push "The Hobbit" past the $1-billion mark, collecting $37.3 million in 10 days. The movie did better, however, in Germany and Britain, grossing more than $80 million in each foreign market.
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," the second entry in Jackson's trilogy, is set to hit theaters Dec. 13. Last week, however, Warner Bros. announced that the third installment, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," would be released later than expected. The final film in the trilogy was initially set to debut in July 2014, but instead will now be released in December 2014.
[For the Record, 4:10 p.m. March 3: An earlier version of this post said "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" ended up with a worldwide gross of $1.1 million. The correct figure is $1.1 billion.]